Dealing with Angry
and Difficult
If dealing with irate customers makes you want to drive home, jump
back into bed, and hide under the covers ... take heart. Once you know the
tricks of the trade, angry customers become less upsetting and more
acceptable as part of the customer service landscape. Here’s how to diffuse
overheated situations and win them over.
Listen First, Speak Later
■ The initial burst of anger from your
customer will almost always be the most
intense. And because it’s so stressful for the
person on the receiving end, flustered
employees often try to end the confrontation
quickly in order to ease their own discomfort.
■ Immediately after apologizing,
repeat the customer’s complaint to him or
her. Clarifying the complaint assures the
customer that you’re concerned about the
problem and helps you avoid further
misunderstandings that may reignite his or
her anger again.
This mistake usually leads to escalation.
Resist the urge to interrupt, argue, or engage
in problem solving. Instead, relax, slow down
your breathing, and listen intently while
nodding and making eye contact with your
Apologize and Empathize
■ Your customer will eventually run out of
steam and pause to collect his or her
thoughts. When this happens, take the
opportunity to apologize.
Maintain A Calm, Positive Tone
One of the biggest drivers of customer anger
is feeling like they’re getting the runaround.
Taking the steps above assures your customer
of the following facts:
He or she is valued.
You have a plan.
He or she won’t be abandoned.
You will be accountable and available for
■ You have tremendous influence over your
customer’s emotional state. (Although it
doesn’t feel that way!) Lowering your voice
and speaking slowly and calmly in a pleasant Follow Up “Tough Cases”
manner relaxes and disarms an angry
■ An angry customer is not necessarily a
former customer. So, don’t write them off!
Take Immediate Action
A follow-up phone call or message a few
■ The longer they wait, the more they seethe. days following the resolution of a complaint
sends the message that you care about your
Make the unhappy customer your top
priority. You want him or her to see you as an customer’s satisfaction and well-being. Most
customers just want to feel valued. This
advocate, not an opponent. Start by asking
An effective apology goes to the heart of
what resolution is desired, and begin working technique builds super strong loyalty.
what has upset your customer. For example, a toward a solution.
customer who is displeased about an
You can’t please everyone, but you can
undisclosed $10 service charge is more likely If you can’t find an immediate answer or
improve and enhance your company’s image
to be angry about feeling deceived than about solution, take the lead in phoning the
and responsiveness in every dispute. The
the fee itself. Address that anger specifically customer back. Jot down contact information more you practice these techniques, the more
and empathize with it.
success you’ll have calming custom-ers,
and outline the corrective steps you will be
winning them over, and reducing stress.
taking. Include the names of everyone who
Example: “I’m sorry. That charge should
will be involved in the solution.
have been pointed out to you at the time of
What the EAP Can Do
your purchase. No one likes to be surprised
Example: “I’m going to send this purchase
■ No one is superhuman. An unusually
by hidden fees.”
order to Sarah, our inventory manager.
incident involving an angry
She’ll order the correct part for you. It
Resist “blame shifting” or passing the buck. should be here on Tuesday. She’ll call you at customer can leave you rattled. If a violent or
near-violent incident took place, you certainly
In your customer’s eyes, you are the
the number you provided. If you have any
may benefit from support, even if it is just
company, so don’t take anything that’s said to problems, please contact me immediately
you personally. This is the secret to coping
and I’ll help you resolve it. Here is my card.” talking about it. If a stressful incident leaves
you lacking energy or a positive attitude,
well with any customer service complaint.
contact your employee assistance program for
practical tips and targeted help.
HelpNet EAP (800) 969-6162